ACoP News

Forum for Climate Action – Inaugural Roundtable

ACoP was delighted to host the Australia and New Zealand Forum for Climate Action inaugural virtual Roundtable on Wednesday, 9 March 2022.

The Roundtable, facilitated by Forum Convenor and ACoP Board member Simon Hann, explored ways in which the collective agency of supporters and signatories of the Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter might be activated across the region to create substantial and meaningful outcomes.

In collaboration with founding members Chartered Accountants ANZ (CA ANZ), the National Environmental Law Association (NELA), Business Council of Sustainable Development Australia (BCSDA) and Engineers Australia (EA) we are stewarding the Charter’s ANZ Professional Bodies ‘Forum for Climate Action’.

With ACoP’s member organisations representing a million professionals across Australia, we are championing the duty of professionals to protect our national interest by promoting and practising sustainability in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement and in particular Australia’s international pledge of achieving net zero emissions (NZE) by at least 2050.

Charter Overview

The Charter brings together multi-disciplinary organisations to share and harness their expertise and climate-relevant resources while enhancing the capabilities of a broad range of professional organisations. It will achieve this by ensuring professionals are well informed on best-practices through relevant Continued Professional Development (CPD) resources whilst establishing common awareness and literacy of sustainability across and between professions.

Roundtable Discussion

The expert panel, comprised of national and international experts, shared their wealth of experience and knowledge through professional views and advice on the region’s climate agenda.

Zoe Whitton, (ESG Specialist and Partner, Pollination Group), pointed out that whilst both government and private sectors’ emission mitigation commitments set ambitious goals, many of these pledges have been announced with little or no strategy underpinning them. According to Zoe, capital markets are now strongly aligning their decisions to climate outcomes, primarily driven by asset risk. However, she also noted the rising number of climate-related litigation cases due to inadequate government and private sector responses and related fiduciary responsibilities which are likely to continue if not addressed and managed appropriately. Zoe concluded by highlighting that addressing climate is as much about mitigation as it is resilience and adaptation; and increasingly about nature-based solutions that are formed through collaborations across sectors, competitors, vertical supply chains and individuals.

Lisa Cliff, (Environmental Scientist, Program Manager – Better Futures Australia, Climate Action Network Australia) explained Better Future Australia’s establishment on the back of the 2019 bushfires which represented a politicisation and inertia to a federal climate change response. She also spoke about the opportunity now to advocate for the national climate policy settings for Australia and the need for civil society volunteers to keep fighting the bushfires and supporting flood rescue.  Lisa highlighted that the main obstacle to private sector actions across all sectors is a lack of national standards and policy uncertainty but maintained that industry players and sub-national governments’ collaboration can be a catalyst for national action.

Join the Forum for Climate Action

We invite individuals and professional organisations to join the Australian / New Zealand ‘Forum for Climate Action’ that works collectively to uphold the integrity and contribution that Australian professionals can make in pursuit of our Nation’s climate agenda. “Collaboratively, we intend to harness and share our joint expertise and climate-relevant resources to enhance capabilities to practice sustainability, including a timeline for achieving this and identifying the help and collaboration needed from within our partnerships to achieve this”, said ACoP Presideet A/Prof Klaus Veil.  

For more details, contact CEO@Professions.org.au

An Election focused on Trust

We need a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) members know that in times of trouble trust is essential to a healthy functioning of society.

Peter Strong, ACoP’s Head of Advocacy, stated “Many professions have their own internal and external processes for investigation and enforcement of professional rules and ethical behaviours. In some in some cases for centuries. Professionals know this is essential – and wonder what’s the big deal with a Federal ICAC?

Mr Strong continued “these processes were developed to protect their reputations by querying, naming, punishing and sometimes expelling those who bring the particular profession into disrepute. This approach comes from a deep sense of responsibility for protecting the public interest, for preventing breaches of public trust, for guiding the conduct of professional members and for maintaining the integrity of a profession.  Examples of early self-regulation includes the Hippocratic Oath for Physicians and the Inns of Court for London barristers.” 

ACoP members know that a professional who breaches the rules faces public shame and an uncertain future. It is not a good fate and there are thankfully only a few who have suffered from this outcome, but it essential for the the support of those who work hard to build and maintain the all-important trust.

There are also a lot of government-imposed regulations and investigations. The Professions see no reason why others, including politicians, should not also have a similar process.

Mr Strong further stated “Most politicians are good and honest people and, as with all groups particularly those in positions of influence and power, there is temptation to abuse these positions.
We ask no more than what professional associations and government impose upon the professional community – an independent mechanism for dealing with complaints and where necessary recommending punitive actions.

This should be done for the sake of maintaining and where necessary rebuilding trust.

We know that public trust in many of our institutions has fallen and the politicians need to match the professions in challenging that perception and increasing trust to acceptable levels.

Which one?

Professional Bodies’ Collective Agency on Climate Action

As the coalition of countries committing to net-zero emissions by 2050 is growing and gaining momentum, the United Nations is calling for these commitments to be backed by realistic, credible, and timely action. The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) is heeding this call and welcomes interested parties to participate in our mission.

In November 2021, our Member Organisations endorsed the global Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter representing a united force in sharing and harnessing joint expertise and resources to enhance the capabilities of professional organisations in their pledge to sustainable practice.

With the discourse on “Net Zero by 2050” and similar goals running hot, ACoP is committed to facilitating dialogue and coordinating tangible outcomes on the practical and realistic action that is required to achieve national climate-related goals aligned with the ambition of the Charter.

The power of collective agency is undisputed and as a collective of professional bodies across Australia and New Zealand, we can effect positive change either as supporters or adopters.

With that as the basis of ACoP’s mission, we are hosting an inaugural roundtable on Wednesday, 9 March 2022 to start the discussions, with a focus on the important next steps needed to establish operational approaches in support of the Charter. This includes discussion on the nature of participation, the Charter’s desired outcomes and realistic timelines to achieve these goals.

As interested parties to the Charter either as a supporter or adopter, you are warmly invited to participate in an inaugural Round-Table discussion.  Key topics for discussion will be the important next steps needed to establish operational approaches in support of the Charter including the nature of participation in support of the Charter’s desired outcomes.

We are delighted to welcome two international climate experts to our inaugural Roundtable who will share their wealth of experience and knowledge through professional views and advice on the region’s climate agenda:

Zoe Whitton is a Partner at Pollination Group, a specialist climate change investment and advisory firm. Zoe assists companies and investors to navigate the impacts of climate change and to build new businesses and products which are transition aligned. Zoe previously led the award-winning APAC ESG Research team at Citi, advising institutional investors globally on climate change and sustainable development. Earlier in her career Zoe covered ESG and climate change at Credit Suisse and at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and served as a youth delegate to the UNFCCC. She serves on the boards of the Investor Group on Climate Change and the Centre for Policy Development, and is part of the advisory group of the Sydney Environment Institute. Zoe has won numerous awards for her research and work on climate finance and risk, and regularly contributes to the wider conversation on sustainable finance by commentating in the Australian and international press, including in the AFR, the SMH, the Age, and the Wall Street Journal, along with publications such as the Quarterly Essay.
Professional Profile

Lisa Cliff, Better Futures Australia Manager, is an environmental scientist and climate policy professional by training, Lisa has worked across sectors to co-design and deliver solutions to environmental challenges including managing The Climate Reality Project – Australia and Pacific to enable a community of 1,600 trained leaders. Lisa has previously worked with the Qld Conservation Council and the ACT Government. Through her work with Climate Action Network Australia, Lisa engages a broad range of organisations to deliver the Better Futures Australia initiative, driving ambition across society and the economy and amplifying diverse voices calling on the federal government to do more.
Professional Profile

We invite indeviduals and professional associations who are not members of ACoP to join the Australian / New Zealand ‘Forum for Climate Action’ that works collectively to uphold the integrity and contribution that Australian professionals can make in pursuit of our Nation’s climate agenda. “Collaboratively, we intend to harness and share our joint expertise and climate-relevant resources to enhance capabilities to practice sustainability, including a timeline for achieving this and identifying the help and collaboration needed from within our partnerships to achieve this”, said ACoP President A/Prof Klaus Veil.  

Join the Forum email list here. For more details, contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

#BreakTheBias – Enough of the Chat, it’s time to Act!

As International Women’s Day (IWD) is marked across the globe today, there is resounding recognition that we still have a long way to go before equality between the genders is a reality. Through IWD celebrations, women and men will be sharing their experiences, supporting their peers, and offering solutions and opportunities on how collectively we can ‘break the bias’ and create gender equality in our professional environments and communities.

Here in Australia, the story is no different. From the Religious Discrimination Laws to the Sexual Harassment issues playing out in Parliament to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report released this year showing Australia is still battling the gender pay gap, there is a clear and present problem in our country to genuinely embrace gender diversity and equality, and the bias that continues to underpin these stories.  The Australian Council of Professions is calling on Professional Organisations and their member professionals to step forward and lead the way in making change.

Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins’ speeches at the National Press Club on 9 February 2022 highlighted the toxic and debilitating inaction that is plaguing our government when it comes to protecting the rights of women and the vulnerable. Their formidable and fearless addresses could not have been clearer: ‘Act now or face the wrath of the next generation’.

They backed their pledge with the powerful #SafetyRespectEquity message supported by the many other women who have endured bias, discrimination, harassment, discrimination, and violence at the hands of their peers and professional community.

And while ACoP welcomes the milestone achieved last year that all ASX 200 companies have at least one female board member, the celebration of this achievement is diminished by the fact that women still hold only 30% of board positions and just over 43% of ASX 200 companies have not reached even that level of gender participation.

So it’s Time for some Action to #BreaktheBias!

It’s never too late to empower diversity and equality across your professional landscape. As members of an alliance of almost 1 million professionals, we have an immense opportunity – and obligation – to facilitate change in as many ways as possible.

ACoP has shone a spotlight on these issues and facilitated Professional Organisations to be part of change. We recently called for more women on boards, equal pay & closing the gap as well as evidence-based early-learning systems taht foster gender equality.

ACoP will also be holding a Roundtable event in the next couple of months on the issue of ‘Gender Deafness’. So stay tuned as we discuss, debate, and engage in healthy discourse with our member organisations about how to enable change.

We invite professional organisations who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of gender parity and the contribution it makes to Australia’s well-being and prosperity. For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

Supporting neurodiverse Professionals at Work

Professionals have a responsibility to create, enable and sustain inclusive and safe environments for the diverse range of individuals in our communities and workplaces.  However, at our ‘Neurodiversity in the Professions’ panel discussion last year we learnt that there is limited knowledge on how organisations can best support neurodiverse professionals at work.

ACoP is therefore stepping up by supporting research in neurodiversity across professional environments and what it means to you, as professionals within that landscape.  Last December, we also signed an MoU with Believe:neuroDiversity (B:nD), a peak body whose mission is to highlight the strengths of neurodiversity in order to improve the outcomes of neurodivergent people within Australia.

Additionally, parts of the COVID-related national skills shortage could be mitigated by attracting, retaining and leveraging neurodivergent professionals through inclusive work environments which support all forms of diversity for the benefit of our communities, both economically and socially.

At this Members-only Round Table we will continue our collaboration with B:nD by exploring the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of creating inclusive work environments for neurodivergent professionals including the Believe:inDex assessment tool which may assist in measuring neurodiversity support in organisations.

ACoP increases its Government Advocacy

ACoP is pleased to announce that Peter Strong has joined the team as our advocate in Canberra. Peter is the immediate past CEO of COSBOA and left that position to have a break. We have coaxed him back into the fray.

Peter Strong
(Photo Jesse Marlow)

In addition to until recently advocating for our MOU partner Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA), Peter lead and participated in various Australian government advisory groups including as Chairman of Ken Henry’s Treasury Business Advisory Forum on Standard Business Reporting (SBR), Marise Payne’s Womens Economic Security Advisory Group member, the ACCC’s small business advisory forum, the ASIC Business Advisory Forum, SBR Board member, the Australian Tax Commissioners small business advisory group member, the ATO’s GST specialist advisory group member and many other advisory bodies to Prime Minister & Cabinet, Treasury, DFAT and the Department of Innovation. In the past Peter has also consulted to government agencies, the World Bank and the United Nations mainly on business development, training, change management, economic reform and industry restructuring.

Peter stated “Working for ACoP is an honour. Working on behalf of the most trusted group in the country is a worthy role. It is interesting that in COSBOA I obviously worked for small business people and many of them were and are professionals – health practitioners, accountants, architect and so forth.

With COSBOA we focused on the importance of small business people to community and also the economy. With ACoP the main difference is that professionals can be business owners, managers, employees, public servants etc. But professionals are the intellectual backbone of our country and the future of innovation. They are also an integral part of community.

ACoP as the peak body already has a seat at tables of importance as do the members of ACoP. We will now expand the reach of ACoP and ensure the opinions, expert opinion at that, will be heard more often.

Click here to see Mr Strong’s experience (linked from his website)

ACoP signs MOU with peak NeuroDiversity Body

The Australian Council of Professions has formalised its collaboration with Believe:neuroDIVERSITY (B:nD), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to highlight the strengths of neurodiversity in order to improve the outcomes of neurodivergent people within Australia.

Originally inspired by Harvey Blume’s 1998 comment in The Atlantic that “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?”, this collaboration follows our Neurodiversity in the Professionspanel discussion on 21 September 2021. Hosted by our Diversity, Culture and Inclusion portfolio, the expert panel explored neurodiversity issues through varied perspectives examining the barriers neurodivergent individuals face in employment whilst highlighting the opportunities that neurodiversity can address in today’s professional skills shortage and talent scarcity crises.  Much of the discussion also noted how under-researched neurodiversity is across the employment and professional landscape.  

The virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was attended by many of our Member Organisations and saw the Presidents of both ACoP and B:nD commit to this collaboration.

Mark Solonsch, President of B:nD, explains that “Neurodiversity is about differences, not disabilities, and neurodivergent staff have tremendous strengths that they offer. But we need to make accommodations in the workplace to recognise those differences so they don’t mask people’s neurodivergence. Everyone has the right to bring themselves to work; and workplaces need to create a culturally safe and conducive environment to do this”. With limited research in the area of neurodiversity across professional environments, ACoP and B:nD have now joined forces to address this challenge.

ACoP’s President Klaus Veil points out that “Data is critical in establishing and enabling  professional associations and employers  towork towards  more inclusive and safe workplaces for neurodiverse individuals and the important contributions they make across professions”.

The MOU covers collaborative activities such as a neurodiversity index project, commissioned research, joint public communications and other activities of mutual benefit.  

As Klaus Veil observes, “These are all important aspects if we aim to continue to enhance the culture of professionalism across our work environments”.

Early Learning System key to Gender Equality

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes the call by key leaders for a more targeted approach to enabling gender equal opportunity across the professions.

There is mounting evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women more negatively across the professions than it has men. Issues that are driving this inequality have been centred around childcare, paid parental leave, paid family violence leave, and the ongoing case of the gender pay gap.

Nicola Forrest, co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation and convenor of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership observes that progress on gender equality has slowed in the last decade and concludes that we have to make workforce participation easier for women, not harder. She argues that it comes down to supporting families so that women can re-enter the workforce, otherwise we may lose the participation of professional women which will negatively affect our GDP and national prosperity. Nicola also wants political parties to commit to an evidence-based early learning system for children from all levels of education and for educators to be compensated commensurately.

These sentiments resonate across multiple professional groups from political, business, community to First Nation leaders who are all calling for a range of critical actions. This includes the implementation of the 55 recommendations from federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report. Also, medium to large organisations are encouraged to report indicators including the gender pay gap, cultural background figures and progress towards women-in-leadership targets, plus the implementation of the recommendations from the Indigenous women’s report Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices).

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes these developments and urges professional organisations to consider how and where they can enable change.

We keep hearing about the economic benefits of diversity and inclusion across professional services, yet the fact we are still a long way off from equality, is concerning” says ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Angelina Pillai.

ACoP is keen to further explorie this issue and will be holding a Roundtable event next year with particular emphasis on ‘Gender Deafness’.  So stay tuned as we discuss, debate and engage in healthy discourse with our member organisations about how to enable change.

We invite all who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance of Professional Organisations as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of gender parity and the contribution it makes to Australia’s well-being and prosperity.

For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

Extended Support for Australia’s Education Sector

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement today of an extended multi-million-dollar financial package supporting the education sector to bounce back as international borders reopen.

Today’s announcement comes on the back of requests to ACoP for consultative input from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) on how the sector might respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This led to the release of a Joint Statement in May 2020 by the entire Australian higher education sector outlining consensus-based principles for adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and providing guidance on how to mitigate and minimise the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the following areas:

  1. Accreditation Flexibility and maintaining Course Quality
  2. Maintaining Quality during changed Teaching and Learning
  3. Supporting Online Assessments while maintaining Rigour
  4. Mitigating a reduced availability of Professional Placements
  5. Flexibility on (Re-)Registration/Accreditation of Professionals
  6. Maintaining International Accords for Professionals’ Mobility

You can read the full Joint Statement, facilitated by ACoP, here.

ACoP also provided input to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) ‘Fees and Charges Proposal Consultation Paper’ in June 2021 which was based on aggregated responses from our Member Organisations regarding the impacts of cost recovery on their ability to continue delivering quality higher education.  While we support the current regulatory environment that evaluates and recognises best practices in the higher education sector, concerns were raised that required further consultation.

Our submission argued against a proposed implementation in January 2022, as it was felt that this timeline did not take into account the impacts of COVID-19.  This timing might also have had the unintended consequence of forcing providers to cease offering accredited courses, which provide high quality, niche education that currently ensures curriculum currency for graduates to be work- and professional-practice ready.  ACoP requested opportunities to consult further on some of the elements of the proposal.

Our submission to TEQSA can be found here.

According to the Federal Government today, more than $37 million will be available to support those international education providers most affected by COVID-19, including extended regulatory fee waivers and additional grants. The package includes:

  • $27.8 million in regulatory fee relief for the duration of 2022, including certain fees for Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), TEQSA, Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registrations, and the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) Levy.
  • Extension of the current FEE-HELP loan fee exemption until 31 December 2022, benefiting around 30,000 undergraduate higher education students studying at institutes of higher education and public universities.
  • An additional $9.4 million to extend the Innovation Development Fund, delivering further short-term targeted support to private English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) providers to diversify their education offerings into online and offshore delivery.

“These additional measures are welcome as they are critical if the education sector, both domestic and international, is to continue to provide quality course offerings in a rapidly evolving teaching, learning and accreditation environment”, said ACoP President A/Prof Klaus Veil.

ACoP will continue to consult with key government departments, our member organisations and relevant industry bodies in advocating for support in the development and implementation of a robust, financially viable framework that prepares students and graduates as future professionals and enhance their future employability.

We invite professional associations who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance as we work collectively to uphold the continuity, integrity and reputation of Australian higher education and recognising its indispensable contribution to Australia’s well-being and prosperity.

For more details, head to our Membership page or contact CEO@Professions.org.au